I used to be the person who would hit snooze 100x, rush to get ready in the morning, multi-task like my life depended on it, and then hit the ground running….all before 9am. Was I successful and efficient in doing so? Sure, but by the time lunchtime rolled around I was exhausted, drained, and felt as though it was already 5pm because that same rushed and hurried mentality carried on throughout the day. So, while I felt accomplished and felt as though I was getting “so much stuff done”, I began to ask myself, “At what cost?” Can anyone else relate? If so, give yourself a pat on the back because you just completed your first mindfulness exercise of being in tune with where you are currently at in life! See, mindfulness can be that easy. And I am here to share a few easy, yet effective ways, you can implement mindfulness into your morning routine!
Our morning routine is key to a successful day. Now, I know the definition of success is subjective and as I noted before, when I was rushing around like a maniac I actually did feel quite successful because I was getting so much done. The problem was I was burning myself out in the process. To me, part of having a successful life means not feeling stressed and overwhelmed all of the time and my lack of mindfulness was not allowing me to live a fully successful life.
Our morning routine actually starts the night before, so it’s important to have not only a good morning routine, but a good evening routine as well. Be in tune with yourself and know how much sleep you require to function. We all have that magic number. Then, evaluate ways you can ensure this happens! Some helpful ideas are:
DVR your favorite TV shows vs. stay up late to watch.
Cut down on social media scrolling and put the phone away to lessen distraction.
Invest in some new sheets or bedding, to make bedtime seem more inviting.
Pick out your clothes for the next day so you don’t have to worry about it the morning of
Prepare breakfast ahead of time if you’re not into cooking the morning of (I.e. overnight oats, fruit and almond butter, yogurt and granola, or even some granola bars.)
Think about how much time you need to get up and ready in the morning. Then, adjust your alarm clock accordingly so you are not hitting snooze and then rushing. Once you’ve allowed your body ample time to rest, you are already setting the tone for a more productive day.
Now, for the morning routine part. When you wake up, do not immediately grab your phone and start scrolling through Instagram or check emails (We are all guilty of this!!). If this is too difficult to resist doing, put your phone somewhere else in the room, on silent or off, and buy a good ol’ fashioned alarm clock instead. (Yes, they still make these!) This will reduce temptation. When your alarm goes off, don’t immediately spring out of bed, instead, allow your body to wake up slowly and fully. Be in tune with how you’re feeling. Are you still tired? Do you feel well rested? Any aches or pains? Why is this important? Because you are allowing yourself to be in tune to what your body is telling you. So, if you wake up feeling a little groggy, you know you’re feeling a bit tired and may need to have a slower paced day. If you woke up and just immediately jumped onto social media or looked at emails, you completely bypassed this step and are more likely to over-do it vs. had you listened to what your body needed.
Next, take in the morning. What sounds do you hear? What do you feel around you? What is the weather like? What does the air smell like? These are all ways to practice being mindful as you are stopping to be in tune to not only yourself, but your surroundings. Next, do some light stretching as you allow your body to wake up. This can literally be 5 minutes and does not need to be an entire yoga sequence, just enough to get the blood flowing. You can even do the stretches while still in bed! Again, be in tune to how your body feels during this time, checking in with yourself if anything feels off.
Then, drink a full glass of water and allow yourself time to eat a healthy breakfast, mindfully. Mindful eating means actually being in tune to what you’re putting into your body and how it’s making you feel. Mindful eating means no distractions. No phone, no tv/music, no talking. Just eating. Being aware of how the food tastes, how it smells, how it makes your body feel. I remember when I first learned about mindful eating and I remember actually laughing out loud because the idea honestly seemed insane to me. Meals were when my multi-tasking shined! I could eat, answer emails, do a quick scroll on social media, maybe squeeze in a call, answer some texts, etc. What was happening though was I was eating way too fast, then feeling like crap because my food didn’t have time to actually digest. I would also feel exhausted, because I never took a break and did way too many things at once. Once I actually started practicing mindful eating, I noticed an immediate shift not only physically, but mentally as well. I felt physically better because I didn’t rush or inhale my food and I felt mentally better because I felt like my meal time was actually a break, as it’s intended to be. Even if I only had 15 minutes to eat something, those 15 minutes lasted because I was focused only on my meal and nothing else. Honestly, it seems impossible but it’s not and is truly one of the highlights of my day now.
Another important part of a mindful morning is doing some journaling, mediation, or prayer. Again, this doesn’t need to be long and can be 5-10 minutes. This is important because it allows time for reflection, gratitude, breathing, and being in tune with yourself and your feelings/emotions. Oftentimes we are so go-go-go, that we don’t check in with how we are emotionally feeling and this can lead to having a poor mood throughout the day or being easily triggered or frustrated. When we take time to actually check in with ourselves emotionally, we know how to plan our day. For example, if you notice you are feeling off one morning, maybe you shift your day around to plan accordingly vs. put yourself in situations where you’ll further be triggered or irritated, thus worsening your mood. Also, how many of you have had those days where you wake up and you instantly think, “UGH!!! I have so much to do today!” It’s easy to start our day off complaining, so when we take time to journal, reflect, pray, or mediate, we are letting positivity and good energy flow through us vs. negativity. Starting your day off negatively means you’re likely to carry that negative energy around with you whereas if you start your day off on positive note, it’ll set a more appropriate tone.
Now I know you are now probably thinking, “WHO HAS TIME FOR ALL OF THIS!!” I get it. We are all busy and we all have a lot to do. BUT! Being more mindful actually HELPS us get more done. Think about it, if you are doing a million things at once, how much are you really doing? Sure, you’re “accomplishing” a lot, but you are also doing all of those things with a fraction of your attention vs. you full attention. You will never get every single thing done that you need to in a day and there will always be things you “need” to do. When we practice mindfulness first thing in the morning, we are more likely to practice mindfulness throughout the day. Which means we are less hurried, less rushed, and less stressed. So, when you get home from work, you don’t feel like crashing on the couch but instead still have energy and motivation to do something else like go for a walk, make dinner, or spend some quality time with your family. See where I’m going with this?
Anytime you are implementing a new routine, my recommendation is to start small. If all of the ideas I listed for a mindful morning seem great, but not all of them see attainable right now, pick one or two and start there. From there, you’ll notice the shift in your mood and lifestyle, and that’ll be motivation enough to try and implement even more ideas into your routine.
Sarah Marandi-Steeves is a licensed clinical social worker with a thriving private practice based in NY. She specializes in working with children and their families and focuses on treating the alleviation of symptoms associated with anxiety, depression, ADHD, as well as behavioral concerns and parent training. Sarah also offers clinical supervision to fellow social workers looking to obtain hours towards their licensure as well as private practice coaching services for mental health professionals looking to begin their private practice through 1:1 coaching or through her private practice digital course. You can learn more about her services at www.smsteeves.com. Sarah also has a blog which focuses on mental health awareness, wellness, and entrepreneurship. You can check it out here: www.smsteevesblog.com.
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